President ’08: Looking at the GOP
I suppose we at Anchor Rising may as well start talking about the 2008 Presidential Race. For right now, focusing on the GOP side of things, it seems to be a McCain/Giulianni race with a little Romney–and even Gingrich!–movement here and there. McCain’s chief appeal is his “independence” and his resolve on issues, whether he agrees with the most in the GOP or not. This makes him a stronger general election candidate than a primary. The same can be said about Giulianni, who has the requisite resolve on terrorism and war and a reputation as someone who will get things done, but his stand on social issues lay outside of the GOP mainstream.
Romney is socially conservative–if only relatively recently–but is an unknown quantity when it comes to foreign affairs and general “toughness.” Then there is Gingrich, the man with strong ideologically conservative bona fides, but someone who will probably be unable to overcome his established negative reputation.
To my mind, probably the best (fantasy) candidate happens to be a Bush, Jeb Bush. Too bad about the name…As Ross Douthat explains, Jeb Bush, or someone like him (Catholic, big state governor), would probably be a solid bet to win for the GOP:
Nominating a socially-conservative Catholic, if one is available, has seemed like a no-brainer for the GOP for some time, and I’m slightly baffled why there isn’t more effort on the part of the party elders to find one to unite around. It’s not just that there’s clearly a large bloc of persuadable Catholics that swings back and forth between the GOP and the Democrats depending on the political winds (something that isn’t true of, say, Mormons and Evangelicals), it’s that Catholicism has been mainstreamed in American society to an extent that Evangelicalism hasn’t, really – just compare the number of Catholics in the journalism business to the number of born-again Christians – and so a Catholic candidate is immune to a lot of the slings and arrows that the media has sent George W. Bush’s way over the last six years. For the Democrats, of course, nominating a Catholic is a dicier proposition, as Kerry demonstrated, because you run into the whole abortion quagmire. But the GOP doesn’t have that problem; most voters already expect that it’s going to nominate a pro-lifer of some sort no matter what, and so a Republican Catholic nominee doesn’t have to try to split the difference between his Church and his core constituencies.
The trick, of course, is to find the right candidate. Figures like John Engler and Thompson never generated much momentum, for a variety of reasons, and while everyone swooned over Tom Ridge, he was pro-choice, which defeated the purpose, and of course he turned out to be a disaster on the national stage…Sam Brownback, of course, technically fits the bill (and may be thinking of his candidacy along these lines) but he’s a convert, which is less than ideal, and a convert from an Evangelical culture that’s he’s still deeply enmeshed in, which is definitely less than ideal. My gut is that most Americans consider conversions kind of weird in general, which is one of the reasons that Evangelicalism is regarded with suspicion by the rest of American Christendom – it’s a tradition that basically requires conversion, if only of the “Jesus changed my heart” variety. If you’re going to convert and then run for President, I think’s better to have done it for reasons that the lukewarmly religious understand, like the fact that your wife is a Catholic – which, of course, brings us to the most ideal Catholic Republican candidate of them all. Alas, Jeb . . .
There, now that I’ve gone on the record about who I’d like to see run (Jeb Bush), I’ll focus from here on out on the actual candidates.